NASA’s Glenn Research Center has announced that it plans to retire its Lockheed S-3B Viking research aircraft after 16 years of service. The last example of the model still flying, NASA acquired its S-3B from the U.S. Navy in 2004. The aircraft has been used primarily for flight communications research, including missions designed to help “define communications standards that the [FAA] can apply to the unmanned aircraft systems for safe operation in U.S. airspace.”
“This old aircraft has been a huge part of ushering in the future of aviation,” said NASA Command and Control project lead Mike Jarrell. “The S-3B has been a perfect match for our research. It has a nice flat bottom where we can mount a variety of antenna; it flies steady and goes low and slow so we can communicate with ground stations.”
Following its official retirement, NASA’s S-3B will be displayed at the San Diego Air and Space Museum. An exact date for its final flight has not yet been announced. According to NASA, its advanced air mobility communications research will be continued using a T-34 Mentor.